Gertrude Behr Family Thayer Collection

Selected images

In 2017, the Beethoven Center acquired the collection of Alexander Wheelock Thayer from the family of Gertrude Behr, who was the daughter of Thayer's sister, Susan. The Thayer Collection was a gift of Kevin Brown, William Meredith & Rafael Romo, and Robert Brilliant.

These images show some highlights of the collection, which will be exhibited in Spring 2019.


 Beethoven's shirt A shirt worn by Beethoven. This shirt was among 6 procured for him by Anselm Hüttenbrenner (1794-1868), who gave it to Thayer during his research trip to Vienna in 1864.
 Beethoven's shirt Beethoven's name is embroidered on one of the sleeves of the shirt.
 Caroline van Beethoven A rare photograph of Caroline van Beethoven (1808-1891), the wife of Beethoven’s nephew Karl (1806-1858). After the death of his brother in 1815, Beethoven embarked on a legal battle against his sister-in-law, Johanna, over guardianship of his nephew and eventually did win the case.
 Hermine van Beethoven A rare photograph of Hermine van Beethoven (1852-1887), Beethoven’s grand-niece (the youngest child of Karl and Caroline van Beethoven).
 Gerhard von Breuning A photograph of Dr. Gerhard von Breuning (1813-1892), the son of Beethoven’s close friend Stephan von Breuning (1774-1827). Gerhard von Breuning’s reminiscences of Beethoven were published in 1874. Beethoven knew Gerhard as a child and called him his “trouser button” because he clung so close to his father. The famous children’s book, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, is based on Beethoven’s relationship with Gerhard.
 A.W. Thayer Cabinet photograph of A.W. Thayer (1817-1897), the American diplomat who was the first major biographer of Beethoven. He completed three volumes, which covered Beethoven’s life through 1816, and published them in German between 1866-1879. After Thayer’s death, Hermann Deiters prepared the 4th volume based on Thayer’s notes, then Hugo Riemann took over after Deiter’s death and completed volumes 4 and 5 (1907-1908). A cabinet photograph of A.W. Thayer, the American diplomat who was the first biographer of Beethoven.
 Thayer's passport Thayer’s passport documenting his many research trips to Europe.
 Thayer's sword

Thayer’s sword, part of his full dress uniform as the U.S. Consul to Trieste, Italy.

 Brothers Grimm Photograph of the brothers Wilhelm (1786-1859) and Jacob Grimm (1785-1863) of fairy-tale fame. Thayer was a close friend of the Grimm family, and his collection includes some of their correspondence.